Competition Requires Solutions, Not Technology
Teresa Hansen, Managing Editor
For the past several years, providing specific products and services to utilities has been the main focus of most technology vendors. However, things are changing. Today, utilities, energy service providers (ESPs) and other entities that are going to be serving the traditional utility customer can no longer afford to be interested in technology alone or automation of manual functions. They must be interested in whatever it takes to satisfy the customer. This means they should be looking for solutions, not just technology.
In order to be successful in the new marketplace, utilities and ESPs must learn what their customers need and want. They must decide which of these needs and wants they can successfully supply at a reasonable price, and then find solutions that will allow them to provide these needs and wants.
At the recent AMRA Conference held in Washington D.C., Gary Swofford, Pugent Sound Energy`s customer operations` vice president, said that in order to successfully provide these services, superior technology will be required. I certainly agree with Mr. Swofford, and as I have often said before, I believe that technology is driving much of the electric industry restructuring. However, I also believe that there is more needed than simply advanced technology. Companies planning to serve the traditional electric utility customer should be investing only in products and services that will help them keep and capture customers. Investing in technology simply because it is the latest and greatest thing or because it improves efficiency, will not guarantee success. The technology must be a tool that can be used to satisfy the company`s customers. That is why investing in solutions, not just technology is so important.
I believe the fairly recent trend of vendors partnering with other vendors to provide end-to-end solutions is evidence that true solutions are needed. In this issue`s news section, you will see that Itron and Schlumberger have announced a partnering agreement aimed at providing their customers with not just technology, but solutions. This alliance is just one of the many that is being formed on a regular basis.
As the electricity industry changes and the marketplace becomes competitive, utilities and ESPs will be relying more and more on technology vendors for end-to-end solutions. The vendors that recognize and act on this need will be much more likely than those that do not to come out winners–as will their customers.